'Lost' Review: Yami Gautam Shines In This Political Thriller But Patchy Writing Keeps It From Becoming A Riveting Watch
‘Lost’ Review: Yami Gautam Shines In This Political Thriller But Patchy Writing Keeps It From Becoming A Riveting Watch

An investigative journalist gets to know of the sudden disappearance of a young theatre activist. She smells an interesting story. But to reach it, she has to sift through explosive layers of corruption, ambition, exploitation, intimidation, deceit, disillusionment, political propaganda, radicalisation of youth in rural India, police brutality, and caste violence.

Director: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury


Writers: Shyamal Sengupta (screenplay) and Ritesh Shah (dialogues)

Cast: Yami Gautam, Pankaj Kapur, Rahul Khanna, Neil Bhoopalam, Pia Bajpiee

 Stars: 3                                                                         

An investigative journalist gets to know of the sudden disappearance of a young Dalit theatre activist. She smells an interesting story that can lead to a bigger picture; she calls it ‘a micro to macro exploration’. But to reach the ‘micro’, she has to sift through explosive layers of corruption, ambition, exploitation, intimidation, deceit, disillusionment, political propaganda, radicalisation of youth in rural India, police brutality, and caste violence. The stakes keep getting higher as people start to stoop lower.

A thriller set in Kolkata that follows a gutsy woman trying to find a disappeared individual. Yes, it is the story of Sujoy Ghosh’s seminal 2011 thriller Kahaani starring the powerhouse performer Vidya Balan. It is also the basic premise of Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s recent release, Lost. In both the movies, we meet a network of ‘informers’ who help the two women in their pursuit of truth and the underbelly of Kolkata; the metro station scene when Vidhi is threatened by goons is bound to remind one of the famous Bob Biswas scene of Kahaani. But, the Yami Gautam starrer is a very different film, and also much less impactful.

The movie, in its spirit and cinematic vision, is closer to Roy Chowdhury’s National Award-winning 2008 movie Antaheen, which marked the debut of another stellar actor, Radhika Apte. Apte’s Brinda is the soul sister of Gautam’s Vidhi (if you have watched Antaheen, the scene in Lost where Vidhi’s dad gifts her a car is bound to create a sense of foreboding).  Both Brinda and Vidhi look delicate and fragile but are fierce and driven independent career women. They are markedly different from No One Killed Jessica’s cuss-word spouting short-tempered Meera another firebrand investigative journalist. Their brand of courage is stoic and devoid of outward flourish. While Brinda, a television journalist, was pursuing a story about the nefarious activities in the real estate space, Vidhi, a newspaper journalist is following a story of a theatre actor who has gone missing. Both are investigative journalists passionate about uncovering the truth. These are not loud and melodramatic journalists who we see pop up in movies these days for comic relief. These celebrate the true spirit of the profession (also, both the movies depict the skewed work-life balance of the journalists!). However, one of the major elements that imbued a timeless quality to Antaheen is entirely missing in Lost and it is the music. While the music album of Antaheen is still considered one of the best in current Bengali cinema, the songs in Lost aren’t that memorable. But then, here Roy Chowdhury’s focus is not on the love story, Lost is a much more complex and darker world than that of Antaheen.

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Yami Gautam imbues the characters she plays with certain honesty and earnestness which makes her the perfect choice to play Vidhi. She is the right mix of playful and serious, scared and brave, and vulnerable and audacious. There is a casual ease with which she slips into the character. Be it the scene where a terrified Vidhi imagines an acid attack on her while being stuck in a traffic jam yet goes about doing her job with stoic resolution, or where she in the middle of a busy day is grabbing a bite while walking into the police station to confront the officers, or where she is genuinely irritated by the random influx of romantic mush while she is deep into an assignment, she keeps it real and acutely relatable. She is nuanced, subtle, and to the point.  


Pankaj Kapur as Nanu, Vidhi’s caring and wise grandpa who is her guiding force and her self-appointed cook, is the warm hug a complex and emotionally charged film like this needed. His banter with his granddaughter, of whom he is extremely proud and who seems to have taken after him, are endearing.  Kapur plays the character with poise and pragmatism and never lets it become another preachy old man doling out sermons.  He adds the much-needed levity to even those heavy dialogues ensuring the character gets to breathe.

As the suave and ruthless, MLA Ranjan Varman, who creates and propagates his own version of truths and masquerades as an ‘honest’ politician, Rahul Khanna is an absolute delight to watch. The way he calmly pushes one of his most faithful cadets who hero-worships him, towards his death, treating it as mere collateral damage, a pawn in the game, will send chills down your spine.

Pia Bajpiee as Ankita, the small-town girl with sky-high ambition who is willing to do anything to climb the social ladder, is spot-on. A better character arc would have given her more scope to shine but she is impactful.

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Neil Bhoopalam plays Jeet, Vidhi’s trying-to-be-supportive-but-failing-miserably boyfriend, with the same deadpan blandness. He is the same as he was in Masaba Masaba and Four More Shots Please!. He plays the boyfriend of strong ambitious women, and although each character has their uniqueness, it seems he always ends up playing the same character mouthing different sets of dialogues. In fact, here he has probably the most potent dialogue of the entire movie where he asks ‘what’s so surprising about a Dalit youth becoming a Maoist’—it is a statement that reeks of class privilege and casual casteism. But you never get much invested in anything he is saying or doing.


Tushar Pandey as Ishan Bharti, the Dalit theatre activist whose disappearance sets the ball rolling, neither has too many scenes nor is he given a proper character arc. And this is not one of those performances where the actor manages to dazzle the audience in limited screen time.

In fact, one major problem with the film in its dogged attempt to keep the focus on the central woman character, it fails to fully flesh out the other characters who remain at various levels of stereotypes. 

The writing credit is shared between the writers of two National award-winning films, Shyamal Sengupta (the writer of Antaheen) and Ritesh Shah (the co-writer of Pink). But ironically, it is the writing that lacks the emotional connection that was the strongest point of both movies. Unlike Pink, Lost never becomes loud or preachy and has no male savior, but at the same time, it is not dramatic or gut-wrenching enough to create the emotional highs. There is no big cathartic moment. It doesn’t reach the quiet poignancy of Antaheen either and the climax is lukewarm and lacks the punch-to-the-gut moment that was the highlight of Antaheen. It seems, in Lost, the writers are saddled with too much and the result is a screenplay that oscillates between patchy and profound. Although not a bad film, it is a much weaker film than both Pink and Antaheen.

The cinematography ensures the City of Joy looks dark, brooding, and adequately ominous. The lighting is immaculate. The production design adds in creating the atmospheric mood. However, the editing isn’t top-notch and doesn’t succeed in building the tension that was required for the experience.


It is one of the rare Bollywood movies that dare to talk about caste politics, but it is not as hard-hitting as it would have wanted to be. The main issue of the film is that there are too many issues at hand. It doesn’t help that as a thriller, the story eventually loses interest in the genre. The experienced is marred by plot holes and easy resolutions and often just shallow writing.  Yes, the movie is not pretentious or preachy but it is also not poignant enough.  In its pursuit of truth, Lost often gets lost; in its zeal to tell a story it fails to avoid the missteps Nanu warns Vidhi of early on in the movie.

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